Sunday 18 March 2018

McGrath ‘extremely ashamed’ after drunken outburst at wedding

Paul McGrath at court today in Tullamore
Paul McGrath at court today in Tullamore

Brian Hutton

FORMER Republic of Ireland international Paul McGrath has admitted he is extremely ashamed of himself after pleading guilty to public order offences during a drunken outburst at a family wedding.

The troubled ex-soccer star said he can not remember the incident during which he was arrested, just over two weeks ago, after a drinking binge at a hotel in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Inspector John Lawless said McGrath was drunk, acting in a disturbed manner and attempting to get into two parked cars at the Tullamore Court Hotel when staff called gardai to the scene on June 29.

Judge Alan Mitchell said he was taking into consideration that the former Manchester United and Aston Villa defender is a "national hero" and "one of the greatest soccer players in Ireland".

The judge asked McGrath if he would coach local children in order to escape prosecution.

Dressed in a black suit, black open necked shirt and brown shoes, McGrath stood up in the hot, packed Midlands courtroom as some of his fans watched and replied: "Yeah, I'll do it. No problem."

Solicitor Donal Farrelly told Tullamore District Court that McGrath, 53, suffers a debilitating disorder, whereby he suffers acute anxiety during social occasions.

To deal with the affliction, he usually avoids such events or is chaperoned by his agent or a friend.

During the family wedding, his agent could not make it and "left to his own devices" he had a couple of drinks to help him cope with his trauma, but continued to drink all day Friday and into Saturday, the court heard.

Mr Farrelly said McGrath, a separated father of six children who is also a national newspaper columnist, could not remember his drunken outburst and was extremely ashamed of himself.

The public humiliation was all the more painful because of his fame and McGrath finds it very difficult to deal with, he added.

The court was also told of McGrath's five previous convictions, including a public order offence, drink driving, assault, driving with no insurance and the unauthorised taking of a car.

Mr Farrelly appealed to the judge to deal with McGrath as leniently as he could.

Judge Mitchell, who revealed himself as a Leeds United fan, said he nonetheless would take into consideration McGrath's forthright apology to the Garda and hotel staff, as well as an "impressive" letter from his doctor handed in to the court.

"I am aware you are a national hero and considered one of the greatest soccer players in Ireland," he said.

"Growing up myself I would have watched many of the games.

"But I was not a supporter of many of the clubs you played with myself - I was a Leeds United supporter.

"I'm also aware, as a hero, people looked up to you, and still look up to you."

The judge also noted McGrath's charitable work for cystic fibrosis and acquired brain injury organisations.

Ordering the former footballer to return and give a full day's coaching to children of different age groups at Tullamore Town Soccer Club, Judge Mitchell said he would give him an unconditional discharge under the Probation of Offenders Act, providing McGrath stayed out of trouble.

The judge said it would benefit both the children of the town and McGrath himself.

"You were in Tullamore for a wedding, you will be coming back now to help young people," he said.

As McGrath left the crowded courtroom, a number of onlookers scurried after him into a side foyer of the building, where he stopped for a time, spoke with them and gave autographs.

Flanked by his agent, he refused to speak to reporters as he was led out a side door before he was bundled into a waiting black BMW with darkened windows and sped away.

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